COVID-19 has now killed over 675,000 Americans, roughly the same number as the 1918-19 Spanish flu epidemic.
Because the population of the United States was only one-third of what it is today a century ago, the flu cut a much wider and more fatal swath across the country. However, the COVID-19 catastrophe is a massive tragedy in all of itself, especially given the great advances in scientific knowledge since then and the failure to fully utilize the vaccines available at the time.
Dr. Howard Markel of the University of Michigan, a medical historian, said of the possibility to vaccinate everyone eligible by now, “Big portions of American society — and, worse, their leaders — have thrown this away.”
The coronavirus, like the Spanish flu, may never completely vanish from our midst. Instead, experts are hoping that it will become a mild seasonal bug when human immunity improves as a result of vaccine and infection. That might take some time.
“We hope it will be like catching a cold, but there is no guarantee,” said Emory University biologist Rustom Antia, who predicts that this will happen in a few years.
For the time being, the epidemic has the US and the rest of the world firmly in its grip.
While the delta-fueled surge in new infections appears to have peaked, U.S. deaths are still exceeding 1,900 per day on average, the highest level since early March, and the country’s overall toll stood at just over 674,000 as of midday Monday, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University, though the true number is believed to be higher.
The University of Washington’s famous model predicts that another 100,000 or more Americans will die of COVID-19 by January 1, bringing the total death toll in the United States to 776,000.
The 1918-19 influenza pandemic killed 50 million people worldwide at a period when the world’s population was a fraction of what it is now. COVID-19 has now claimed the lives of almost 4.6 million people worldwide.
Given the lack of complete data from the time and a lack of scientific understanding of what caused the illness, the death toll from the Spanish flu in the United States is an estimate. The 675,000 figure is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States.
COVID-19 could become extinct if the virus weakens as it mutates and more and more people’s immune systems learn to attack it. The immune system improves mostly through vaccination and infection survival. Breastfed babies benefit from their moms’ immunity.
In that optimistic scenario, pupils would contract a minor illness that would help them strengthen their immune systems. The immune response memory would be carried by the children as they grew older, so that when they were elderly and susceptible, the coronavirus would be no more deadly than cold viruses.
The same is true for today’s vaccinated teenagers: the jabs and little infections would strengthen their immune systems.
Antia predicted, “We’ll all get infected.” “What matters is the severity of the infections.”
A same situation happened with the H1N1 flu virus, which was responsible for the 1918-19 pandemic. It came into contact with too many immune humans, and it finally deteriorated due to mutation. H1N1 is still circulating today, but infection- and vaccination-induced immunity has triumphed.
Getting a flu vaccination every year now protects against H1N1 and several other flu types. True, flu kills between 12,000 and 61,000 Americans each year, but it is primarily a seasonal issue that can be managed.
Before COVID-19, the 1918-19 influenza pandemic was widely regarded as the worst in human history. It’s unknown if the present plague will prove to be more deadly in the end.
In many ways, the 1918-19 virus, which was incorrectly dubbed “Spanish flu” because to significant media coverage in Spain, was worse.
It was spread by the movement of World War I, and it killed a large number of young, healthy adults. There was no vaccination to prevent it, and no medications to treat secondary bacterial infections. Of course, the world was much smaller back then.
Jet travel and widespread migration, on the other hand, threaten to exacerbate the present pandemic’s toll. A large portion of the world is unvaccinated. And the coronavirus has thrown us a few curveballs.
Markel said he is continually surprised by the scope of the pandemic’s devastation on the earth.
“I was -gob-gob-gob The slow rate of immunizations in the United States is the latest source of his surprise.
Just under 64% of the population in the United States has received at least one dose of the vaccine, with rates ranging from 77 percent in Vermont and Massachusetts to 46 percent to 49 percent in Idaho, Wyoming, West Virginia, and Mississippi.
According to Our World in Data, around 43% of the world’s population has gotten at least one dose, with some African countries just starting to administer their first doses.
Dr. Jeremy Brown, director of emergency care research at the National Institutes of Health and author of an influenza book, said, “We know that all pandemics come to an end.” “When they’re enraged, they may do terrible things.”
COVID-19 may have been significantly less harmful in the United States if more individuals had been vaccinated sooner, Brown said, adding that “we still have an opportunity to turn it around.” “We frequently forget how fortunate we are to be able to take these things for granted.”
The present vaccines are quite effective at preventing serious illness and death from the virus strains that have evolved thus far.
Scientists will need to make sure the virus hasn’t altered enough to dodge immunizations or cause serious sickness in unvaccinated children, according to Antia.
A new vaccination employing the technology underlying the Pfizer and Moderna shots might be manufactured in 110 days if the virus changes dramatically, according to a Pfizer official. The business is investigating whether annual vaccinations with the current vaccine will be required to maintain high levels of immunity.
One advantage is that the coronavirus mutates at a slower rate than flu viruses, making it a more stable target for vaccination, according to Ann Marie Kimball, a retired epidemiology professor at the University of Washington.
Will the current epidemic overtake the 1918-19 influenza pandemic as the deadliest in human history?
“You’d like to decline. We now have far better infection control and the ability to help sick people. Kimball explained, “We have contemporary medicine.” “However, there are a lot more people and a lot more mobility….” The danger is that a new strain would eventually get around a specific vaccine target.”
“The difficulty is, you have to survive illness to acquire immunity,” Kimball explained to unvaccinated people who rely on infection rather than vaccination for immune protection. It’s easier to go to the pharmacy and get a shot, she claims.